HUMAN RIGHTS Watch said yesterday that sedition charges over a Facebook photo expressing symbolic support for Thailand’s political opposition shows the military junta’s utter disregard for peaceful dissent.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) junta should immediately end its abusive use of the sedition law against peaceful critics and dissenters, it said.
On Tuesday, authorities arrested 57-year-old Theerawan Charoensuk for posting her photo holding a red plastic bowl inscribed with Thai New Year greetings from former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.
The Chiang Mai military court released Theerawan on Bt100,000 bail pending a military trial. If found guilty, she could face up to seven years in prison. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Tuesday insisted that it is legally wrong to distribute red plastic bowls, as Thaksin is a fugitive and Yingluck is still under the prosecution process.
“The Thai junta’s fears of a red plastic bowl shows its intolerance of dissent has reached the point of absolute absurdity,” said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “When military courts try people for sedition for posting photos with holiday gifts from deposed leaders, it’s clear that the end of repression is nowhere in sight.”
“Thailand’s friends and neighbours should make clear that with each ludicrous new arrest, the junta’s global standing drops lower and lower,” Adams said. “They should press the junta to end its persecution of peaceful dissent and fulfil its frequent promises to restore democratic rule.”